During the first run of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show aired on TV23 KTMA in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota (instead of being referred to as being the first season, production considers it as a whole pilot season; "Season 0") in 1988-1989.
The series, even during its runs on Comedy Central, mainly relied on fan recordings of episodes for many episodes (due to the copyright that the movies riffed on not allowing home media release, something the creators encouraged, spawning the phrase "Keep Circulating the Tapes"). Due to the series being new and strictly limited to the Minneapolis area, only a small handful could have possibly recorded the KTMA era episodes.
The first 3 episodes from the KTMA era episodes are the only episodes missing within the fans circulation of recordings, due to the series not having completely stricken interest in the area at the point of their airing. These episodes seem to have not been re-aired after their initial premieres apart from a repeat later in the same night.
Also often considered a lost episode by the MST3K fanbase is the original pilot episode, "The Green Slime", however this is simply a 15 minute test pilot used to pitch the series to KTMA and was never truly aired. It has since shown up in bootleg form on sites like YouTube.
UPDATE: The first two episodes have been released for the kickstarter backers!
The missing episodes
- K01: "Invaders from the Deep", aired November 24, 1988
- K02: "The Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars", aired November 24, 1988
- K03: "Star Force: Fugitive Alien II", aired November 27, 1988
Though the master tapes aren't truly "lost", (they are held by producer and Best Brains co-founder Jim Mallon), Best Brains Productions have made their disdain for the KTMA Season quite open, although their attitudes have seemed to soften with the acquisition of the DVD rights by Shout! Factory, them having made a huge push towards increasing the extras on their MST3K releases (meaning that the episodes may yet see the light of day in the form of an official release).
Many of the missing KTMA episode host segments have been uploaded to the Best Brains website. Along with that, many host segments from these episodes can be seen on the "MST Scrapbook" VHS tape released by Best Brains in 1995 as a video diary of the series' progression.
The third missing episode, K03: "Star Force: Fugitive Alien II" was revisited in the third season of MST3K, being riffed again, along with many other KTMA riffed movies.
The 15 minute "The Green Slime" pilot was aired for fans by Best Brains at the Archon 32 Convention in St. Louis on October 3, 2008. As previously mentioned, various quality recordings by fans in the audience have popped up on YouTube. Unfortunately the quality leaves much to be desired, the audiences laughter also cover the audio in places.
On November 26, during a Reddit Q&A session with Joel, some fans asked about releasing the three missing episodes. Joel's response:
"I see no reason to look at the KTMA episodes other than for academic reasons. It was profoundly important for the development of movie riffing, but they are hard to watch now, if you ask me."
- Known information on the missing episodes. Retrieved 27 Aug '13.
- tvtropes page on missing episodes of live action TV shows. Retrieved 27 Aug '13.
- MST3K official site with KTMA clips (under Genesis tab). Retrieved 27 Aug '13.
- http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1risx8/i_am_joel_hodgson_the_creator_of_mystery_science/Joel Hodgson Reddit Q&A] Retrived Nov 27 '13.